Overwhelm! 

In August 2020, the world was pretty crazy! We were gradually coming out of the first lockdown, but life had changed quite a lot and for someone who sometimes struggles with social norms at the best of times, it could all be a bit confusing. I found myself struggling to get out of bed, struggling to find motivation to do anything much, and having a really hard time even enjoying talking to friends and acquaintances.

Sometimes, I struggle to realise when I’m sliding into overwhelm–and can even end up not realising until I am coming out of it naturally. This time however, I started realising that something wasn’t quite right. That negative voice (you know the one, the one we all have) was telling me I was useless and that I really couldn’t do anything. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over not getting on with things, while at the same time feeling like I couldn’t do anything right anyway, so what was the point? I was sleeping really well (I have one of those apps that tells me so), but still waking up exhausted. In the past, I’ve been known to suffer insomnia, but that definitely wasn’t the case this time round. I could sleep 10 hours and want another 10.

Once I realised what was happening, I quickly stopped that. That’s not to say that I didn’t have my moments, but I knew them for what they were, and didn’t have to spend too much time listening to them. I started doing what I call deliberate resting. Taking time out and very clearly NOT doing things for work…not just sitting staring at the screen just not quite getting on with it. Both can look very similar, but they have very different energies. I binge-watched Netflix because I could. I had deliberate lie-ins, because I could. I took the pressure off some of the deadlines I’d set myself, because they weren’t currently realistic, and I needed the time to rest and recover.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that actually, it wasn’t that odd. We were literally in a global emergency. I hadn’t seen any of my family for nearly 6 months. Until we set up our support bubble, I hadn’t even seen my partner for several months, as he was also ill with Covid. I hadn’t really had any time off–I certainly hadn’t had my usual holiday away, or even a day down spending time with my friends from where I used to live. I poured my heart and soul into supporting everyone else, and even though I thought I was doing everything for me too, I missed some important bits. And so, despite doing my best, I was massively overwhelmed and burned out.

I ended up taking the rest of August pretty much off. I still looked after the horses (because fresh air and exercise are good things), and I still did kickboxing (see exercise). But I didn’t do much else. And that was exactly what I needed. I made sure I was sleeping even more than usual. As I have a chronic condition, I’m quite firm on making sure I’m in bed on time, but now I added lie-ins, and afternoon naps whenever I needed them. I did things I enjoy. I read books, I had long, hot baths, I talked to my friends when I had the energy to. And when I didn’t, that was okay. I enjoyed the sunshine, and laughed as much as I could.

It took a while, but gradually, I started feeling motivated again. I woke up feeling like I had rested, and I started wanting to do things again.

Now, in the greater scheme of things, that’s fairly quick for a burnout, and that’s quite likely because I spotted it as quickly as I did, and took it seriously straight away. I’ve been far more burned out in the past, and it’s taken far, far longer to recover. I’ve been doing this personal development and looking after myself for around 20 years, and working as a coach for over 13 years. So I’ve got some pretty good tools in my toolkit, and I’m self aware enough to know what works for me. But that still doesn’t mean I always get it right all the time. I still do too much and lose my balance in life. And that’s okay. We’re none of us perfect, and making mistakes is part of how we learn. So now I’m focusing on remembering to take time out. I try not to work on office type stuff at the weekend (I don’t always succeed, but then I’ll try to balance that with some fun during the week). I remember to take time to deliberately rest. Not playing on Facebook, thinking I ought to be posting something or doing something for the business, but burying myself in what others are up to, but ACTUALLY resting. I’m reading before bed again, from a real, actual book. I’ve sat down in my lounge and watched television, just for the laughs! I’m learning to work smarter, not longer hours. To really focus when I work, so I can really rest when I rest. 

It’s till a balancing act. And that’s okay. I wonder what I’ll learn next!